By Katie Dahl
Algonquin students took to the streets equipped only with sleeping bags, socks, a change of clothes, water and hats and mitts over the Thanksgiving weekend to experience 24 hours of homelessness.
Community and justice services students participated in the 10th anniversary of the event which raises awareness and funds for the agency Operation Come Home (OCH).
Settled in Minto Park on Elgin Street, 14 of the community and justice services students took on the negative two degree Celsius overnight temperature to experience something that most fortunately do not have to.
“I learned it’s a lot easier to be thankful for what you have,” said second-year community and justice services student Megan Laveau.
“I’ve been under-housed before.”
Having volunteered with OCH this past summer Laveau already had some idea as to what kind of help the organization provides.
“People can’t say ‘you don’t know how I feel,’ because I do,” she added.
With students actually participating they get a glimpse into what their future clients could be living through.
“It makes them more sympathetic,” said CSJ program co-ordinator and professor Cat Baron. The experience allows them to be more informed for future work.
“Usually you never get involved with who you are fundraising for,” said Laveau about the hands on experience. There were actual street people coming up to them making things feel very authentic.
“It’s always a very successful student experience,” said Baron. “Students who participate in the event get a really rich experience.”
Although she does not feel inclined to participate a second time, Laveau feels that for community and justice services students, it is definitely something they should experience. “I would describe it as difficult but very rewarding.”
The program partners with Crime Prevention Ottawa who sponsors the event by paying for access to the park and supplying a port-a-potty.
“It is what it is, 24 hours of homelessness. It’s not glamourous,” said Laveau.
In terms of its 10 years of continued success Baron has high hopes for the future. “I’m hopeful it will continue, I want to see it flourish.”